28 April, Maitland Showground
Ahhh Maitland, the regional sibling of Newcastle, boasting so much scenic beauty, heritage buildings and a ripper lunch buffet at the East Maitland Bowlo. For 364 days of the year, this quiet country community goes about their days in peace… until late April rolls around.
This year, on 28 April, the weather gods smiled and the sunshine was let in (despite concerns earlier in the week). No, it was not the age of Aquarius, it was time to boogie on down at Groovin The Moo, Maitland style! Thousands of punters clad in glitter, fake braids, lace pants, no pants and matching sets flocked to the good ol’ Maitland Showground for what was going to be a stellar day. The entry process was somewhat disorganised as masses of people gathered outside the entry gates waiting to meander in, not really knowing what way to turn or where to join the line.
Bag checked and wristbanded, I frolicked my way over to the Moolin Rouge tent to catch Miss Lady Powers herself, Vera Blue. Draped in a floor-length crimson gown, shaking a tambourine and with a ponytail to rival Arianna Grande, the vocal powerhouse danced her way through a range of tunes before an adoring crowd. Regular Touch and Settle proved to be set highlights, the girl power energy immersing the entire tent in the most uplifting of ways. Unfortunately, throughout the set I found the noise from the main stage to be battling the Moolin Rouge tent audio. It could need to be something that the festival considers for future Groovin’s, as there were aspects of Blue’s set like quieter ballads and audience interaction that were almost lost due to the noise battle.
Feeling extra girly and shimmery, I wandered over to check out the main stages. Side by side they stood like a magical music lovers kingdom. Sitting on the grassy hill with a bevvy in hand (drink lines were, notably, not outrageously long) I took in the landscape of blue skies and gaggles of girls ensuring they captured the perfect Instagram boomerang as Alex Lahey bounced around to a hyped audience. Certain music festivals have become just as much about the fashion and being seen there as the lineups. This almost made me sombre for a moment as I reflected on the days where it was solely about the music, but then Lahey catapulted into Everyday’s the Weekend and that thought sailed.
Dean Lewis channelled some serious James Bay vibes, making everyone slightly emotional, and international rockers Portugal. The Man shredded the guitars and had everyone dancing like jelly on a plate. Their cover of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall was a welcome chariot, carrying punters to a cosmos of ’70s rock, before whipping them back with their primo banger Feel It Still.
Tkay Maidza was her usual bubbly self, adorned in a bright pink corduroy jacket and pants. Beats pumping, she spat her rhymes like only she can while body rolling and booty shaking like a champ. As I looked around at that point, everyone was dancing furiously, stomping their feet, popping their chest and swinging their hips. It is absolute magic when a mass of people are swept up in a vortex of funky beats and dancing. There was not a still body about.
As the sun began to set, Winston Surfshirt cruised on through, their perfect mix of folky vocals and hip hop oozing like caramel. A new edition to the band saw a bartender shaking cocktails on the left side of the stage for the entire set.
Set of the day came just after the night sky fell over the showground. Grinspoon, for lack of a better phrase, absolutely fucking killed it. Phil Jamieson once again showcased why the band has been so successful for so long and why they make up such crucial part of Australian rock’n’roll. Exuding charisma and unmatchable confidence, the band tore through a set that brought an array of staples from their entire catalogue. The crowd consisted of people, both young and old who loved the band, which never fails to make me swell with pride. Chemical Heart, Hard Act To Follow and Lost Control went down a real treat, but seeing a 60-something man rocking out in the crowd, singing along to More Than You Are with an 18-year-old boy who was equally as enthusiastic is what music dreams are made of. The set closed with confetti cannons raining down and Jamieson raising a schooner to the crowd. Legendary.
The strong sets continued into the night with Confidence Man absolutely packing out the Moolin Rouge tent for their bubblegum-popping extravaganza. Choreographed dance moves flowed, and the band had everyone thrusting and bopping as one.
Now it’s no secret around these parts how much I bloody adore Paul Kelly. But as far as I’m concerned, you’re un-Australian if you didn’t go and see the gravy man himself in Maitland for Groovin. The Australian legend performed a small collection of his greatest hits, complete with a crowd-rousing How To Make Gravy closing the set. Kelly, as always displaying his champion storytelling skills and warm, family-like demeanour.
As the night continued and eventually came to a close, punters were spoilt for choice with UK rockers Royal Blood, Aussie favourites Ball Park Music and dancefloor heroes Flight Facilities all boasting killer late sets.
As a whole, it was a stellar year for Groovin The Moo Maitland. Festival-goers seemed happy and content with the day’s proceedings. More bathroom facilities could probably be brought in for next time (not a big fan of the 25-minute wait after chugging a couple of bottles of water), and some sort of noise control between stages may be nice too. More than anything, it was excellent to see such a strong Aussie music presence on the lineup with hordes of fans screaming their support. Aussie music is booming and Groovin the Moo is a great platform to bring it all together.